About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for Moms in Chief: The Rhetoric of Republican Motherhood and the Spouses of Presidential Nominees, 1992–2016

McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
June 13, 2019 

Good afternoon, and welcome to the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and I’m pleased you could join us for today’s program, whether you are here in the theater or joining us through Facebook or YouTube.

Tonight’s conversation is one of many programs we’ve developed to tie into our new exhibit in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery: Rightfully Hers: American Women and the Vote.

Before we get started, I’d like tell you about two other programs coming up soon in this theater.

Tonight at 7 p.m., we will partner with the United States Association of Former Members of Congress, the 2020 Women’s Vote Centennial Initiative, and the National Women’s History Alliance to present a panel discussion, “The Female Candidate for Office: Challenges and Hurdles.” Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri will moderate the discussion, which will include Ann Lewis, former White House Director of Communications, and former members of Congress Donna Edwards, Barbara Comstock, and Connie Morella.

 And next Thursday, June 20, at noon, Senator Mike Lee will be here talking about his book Our Lost Declaration: America’s Fight Against Tyranny from King George to the Deep State.

Check our website, Archives.gov, or sign up at the table outside the theater to get email updates. You’ll also find information about other National Archives programs and activities.

Another way to get more involved with the National Archives is to become a member of the National Archives Foundation. The Foundation supports the work of the agency, especially its education and outreach programs. Visit its website—archivesfoundation.org—to learn more about the Foundation and join online.

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I mentioned earlier that we’ve just opened a new exhibit upstairs. Rightfully Hers is the cornerstone of our centennial celebration of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

The exhibit tells the story of women’s struggle for voting rights and explores the roles of women from a variety of backgrounds. Once they won the vote, the door was opened for them to serve in public office, both appointed and elected.

But the women most in the public eye in the world of politics have not been on a ballot. The First Lady—and by extension, the spouse of any Presidential candidate—is a figure of public fascination although she does not run for any office.

You can find a wealth of information about the First Ladies since Lou Henry Hoover in the 14 Presidential Libraries operated by the National Archives. You don’t have to visit in person; there’s a great deal available online through each library’s website.

To date, the White House occupants have been Presidents and First Ladies. Hilary Clinton’s run for office in 2016 raised the possibility of a “first gentleman” as a Presidential consort, and that prospect inserted a new twist into the discussion of the role of a political spouse.

Today, Tammy Vigil will tell us about the spouses of Presidential nominees of the last several elections and how they have challenged or reinforced perceptions of the role of gender, and the place of women, in American political life.

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Tammy R. Vigil is an associate professor of communication at Boston University. Her research interests include political campaigns, persuasion, and women as political communicators. She is the author of Connecting with Constituents: Identification Building and Blocking in Contemporary National Convention Addresses and co-author of The Third Agenda in U.S. Presidential Debates: Debate Watch and Citizen Reactions, 1996–2004. Dr. Vigil has published journal articles and book chapters on the rhetoric of Michelle Obama, Franklin D. Roosevelt, George W. Bush, and on national nominating conventions. She has served as an expert source for stories in several news outlets, including the Guardian, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, and NPR.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Tammy Vigil.